Hot on the heels of Kate Beckinsale’s Jolt, the Wheel-of-Wick has spun and landed on another lithe brunette to deliver our latest bullet-addled, monosyllabic streaming-service bit of gun-foolery. This time it’s genre favorite Mary Elizabeth Winstead delivering the ass-beatings in Netflix’s WYSIWYG Kate.
Maybe you’ve heard this one before: Winstead’s weary, haunted, titular assassin wants to retire, but her conspicuously big-name handler (Woody Harrelson) isn’t having it. She’s tasked with One Last Mission in Japan, but it does not go as planned at all! An unlikely friendship with a kid (Miku Martineau), and many, many murders at her enraged hands leads to a bit of self-discovery and a lot of nameless corpses.
Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan’s neon-tinged Kate is basically a Crank-ed up John Wick. Winstead’s antihero has been fatally poisoned, so she’s got less than a day to hunt down and obliterate those who slipped her the radioactive mickey—propping herself up with a crutch of stimulant auto-injectors to get her revenge before she bites it. Lucky for her and bloodthirsty viewers, that ends up being plenty of time to execute countless Yakuza members in the most fetishistic manners possible. (She seems to favor the Drax method of “keep stabbing rapidly until it is dead mush” in particular.)
Kate is perfectly competent for this sort of thing, despite sometimes being very stupid and only occasionally clever or stylish. But it eventually evens out to a serviceable, modern cliché of a hitman murder-fest by way of splicing in some memorable business from the likes of Speed Racer, El Camino, Hudson Hawk, and The Losers. There’s even one shot that’s a hilariously specific Die Hard xerox. Kate may often cross the fine line between pastiche and plagiarism, but to its credit, Kate’s plagiarism is fidgety enough to never get boring.
It’s redundant and shamelessly derivative stuff—yes, it even has The Dingy Bathroom Scene where she hacks at her hair—but that’s the only real crime of a best-of compilation like Kate. It helps enormously that Winstead doesn’t hold back, heaping on the pathos of this particular assassin-grows-a-conscience redemption story. She’s playing all the hits and nailing them, but in an increasingly crowded field of Wick cover acts, this is a battle of the bands the Scott Pilgrim vs. the World star isn’t going to win.
Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Studio: Universal Pictures
Runtime: 106 minutes
Cast: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Miku Martineau, Woody Harrelson, Michiel Huisman, Tadanobu Asano, Jun Kunimura, Miyavi, Kazuya Tanabe